As I feared, Hadley was traumatised by the events in the vaults. How could she not be, seeing the one she had come to regard as Auntie demolished before her very eyes? I am relieved, at least, that she has family to help her through it. She has Wren, and apparently, she has Dorina, who seems to have adopted her, albeit informally. Meanwhile I have begun to make inroads in getting Wren to talk to me about what is going on in her head. It’s a small step, but it’s a good step.
I found Wren by the tavern, so we sat down for a chat. I asked her about Hadley and she told me that she had been crying a lot and not eating. I sighed inwardly, but this was to be expected. I explained what had happened and what bits Hadley had witnessed. I told her about the taint, Maric’s efforts to contain it, and Dyisi’s sacrifice. I explained that because Vedis was also tainted, that was why she had been affected by the ritual. I offered my opinion that it was unlikely we had seen the last of either of them.
She agreed with my hope for Vedis’ return. Apparently, Dyisi had spoken to her beforehand and told her that she did not die. Rather, she returned to where she came from, in another strand, so would likely find her way back. She had also apparently spoken with Galyanna, who had told her that things had not gone well. She was alarmed at what Hadley had seen, saying she was too young to experience things like that. She thought that Hadley needed Dorina, because she had started to call her mom, and that’s what moms did, make you feel better.
I had to agree with her on that, saying that my mother always had done so. I tried to assure her that Hadley had not seen the worst bits, or much of the blood. I would need to speak with Galyanna as soon as I could, to see what best we could do for Vedis. In the meanwhile, we should concentrate on helping Hadley as soon as Dorina got here. I interrupted myself with a massive yawn and explained that I had been up all night helping Valene and Gwrgi. While we waited, I asked if she had recovered from her fairy-licking episode.
She assured me that she had, having slept for almost a day afterwards. She now knew, she said, why people who took drugs were so weird. I told her she should chalk it up as a learning experience and explained what had happened with Gwrgi, before suggesting we go inside for something to eat.
Inside the tavern, we ordered a simple supper of bread and cheese, since I wasn’t really sure I fancied anything meat-like at the moment. I asked Wren if she had any questions, about the Shadow Roads, vampires, magic, the meaning of life etc. I was joking about the last, but, of course, that was the one she latched onto before asking a more pertinent question, was Maric a vampire?
I said I had been joking about the meaning of life. If I knew that, I told her, I would either be extremely rich, or in an insane asylum. She said that she was glad I wasn’t in the latter, as she had heard they were not nice places. I wondered if she had read anything of how such places were in my time, which I assumed were much worse than they were in her time. I could not lie to her about Maric. She had correctly deduced the answer, from other things I had said about blood magic and such like. I said that she was right, but that she should keep that information to herself. Those who needed to know were already aware, and that was the way he wished things to be. She promised that she would keep it to herself.
She told me that she had done some scrying and now knew that Ember was alive. She did not yet know where she was, but at least she was alive. I thought this was a good thing and said that we would have to then work out what, if anything, we should do about this and if Ember wished to join us, then, we would see what we could do about that too.
She told me also of her dream, which was much the same as the one I had experienced, of the white hand and the black hand on Ardan. She was worried by it, but did not know what it meant. I told her that I had also dreamed the same dream. I told her what I had surmised, that the black was something to do with either Alec and Isabella, or something to do with the old kings, possibly the Unseelie king, but I wasn’t sure. She wanted to know why she was having this dream, since she was not fae.
I offered several explanations. It could be simply because she was here, on the borders of faerie, and faerie having influence, even here. It could be because she was fae-affected because of Isabella, or it could just be because of her magic. The latter, I took as a chance to gently remind her of the lessons we still needed to have, jokingly suggesting that maybe we could trade maths lessons for magic lessons.
She pulled a face at that idea, probably finding either choice unappetizing. She said she did not want to be fae; she’d rather be demon, except she didn’t want to be that either.
I sensed some deeper concerns, about her nature, about her magic. I told her that it did not matter to me if she was human, demon, fae or whatever, she was still herself, and it was her I cared about, as much as if she were my own child. I knew it was no fun being her age, I said, because I remembered being her age too, and I hadn’t had to deal with things like magic and all the other weird shit that she had had to deal with. Whatever was going on in her head, whatever was bugging her, whatever weird shit she was dealing with, it didn’t matter, I cared for her, no exceptions, and no conditions. I asked her to trust me and to talk to me.
She looked at me for a moment, clearly struggling. “I don’t know what to say,” she said. She gave a whole litany of how growing up sucked, with the body changing, whether or not she wanted it to; about the strange moods and feelings and not knowing why you were feeling them; about feeling suddenly mad or tired and not knowing why. There were so many stupid thoughts and feelings and most of the time she didn’t really know what they were. She didn’t know why she felt these things, and why she thought weird things. Why couldn’t she be normal? I felt for her, remembering how I had felt at her age, as my body changed, and realising it would be so much worse for a girl, even more for one who so wanted to be a boy. She paused a moment, and started to explain about the magic. It was life magic, she said, or so she had been told. She could talk to animals and trees, she could make things live… and then there was the other side, the opposite side of life. She wound down a bit then, possibly because Dorina and Helene came in. I thanked her for confiding in me and trusting me, giving her a hug. I understood better now, I told her, adding that we would talk later.
Dorina was looking for Hadley, which was good because she was exactly what Hadley needed. I explained briefly what had happened, about how Hadley was unfortunate enough to have witnessed the disincorporation of Vedis and that she had not been sleeping well or eating well. She was not best pleased with this, but went straight to her, taking Helene along to deal with the injured arm.
I gave Wren another hug and reminded her that I was there for her, no matter what. She thanked me quietly and gave me a grateful smile. I sent her off to look after her sister, something I knew she could do and would be good for her. Poor kid, all mixed up and that without all the supernatural crap. I’ll do what I can, but I think she needs a woman’s touch too. But who? Aoibheann’s childhood wasn’t exactly a good example and besides, she thinks she is middle-aged in her early 20s. Helene? Maybe, but she was very innocent when I first knew her, so I don’t know what her life was like at that age? Maybe Gwn – in a way, she’s been through it twice. I will have to see if she can spare her any time.